In 2016, the European Court of Human Rights held that an employer’s interference with employees’ private communications was lawful, so long as it was limited, proportionate and served a legitimate objective. This week, the Grand Chamber reversed the decision in Bărbulescu v Romania and the employee has been awarded compensation.
Where employees are allowed to use work devices for personal use, they will have a reasonable expectation of privacy unless they are told by their employer that those devices will be monitored. In this case, the worker knew that work devices were not for personal use, but he was not told that they would be monitored.
In the final appeal on 5 September 2017, the Grand Chamber’s ultimate view was that workers have a right to respect for privacy in the workplace, and if an employer is going to monitor their communications, the employee must be told (unless in exceptional circumstances). The employee was therefore awarded compensation by the Grand Chamber because he had not been informed by the employer that his communications were being monitored.
If an employer is monitoring the communication of its employees, it should make sure the employees are aware of that fact and check whether its employee policies need to be updated to reflect this.